Max Chilton adjusting to life outside F1, embracing Indy Lights opportunity

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LONG BEACH, Calif. – Life has changed a fair bit for Max Chilton in the last few months.

The Englishman is, like his Carlin Racing teammate Ed Jones and team principal Trevor Carlin, fully embracing his new opportunity racing in North America.

Yes, his Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires races this year are on a race-to-race basis, but the plan now is that the ex-Marussia Formula 1 driver will be continuing on for the balance of the season on non-conflicting weekends.

Initially, when Chilton first announced he’d be taking on the Nissan LMP1 program in the FIA World Endurance Championship, it didn’t appear as though he’d be able to do both.

Chilton has raced at Monaco several times previously, twice in F1 and before that in GP2.

While many have dubbed Long Beach “the Monaco of the U.S.,” Chilton wasn’t quite so quick to bestow the honor.

“Yeah it’s my first time here and first time to L.A. as well,” Chilton told MotorSportsTalk during Thursday’s media lunch activities ahead of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach weekend.

“I have done the West Coast before, at Laguna, but never here. I have watched a couple of on-boards and done stuff on the sim. I’m not comparing it here to Monaco, but it’s definitely nice weather and a nice environment.”

Between testing work and the opening weekend in St. Petersburg, where Chilton had the pace but not the luck on race day (best finish of fourth in Sunday’s Round 2), he has adapted to the new Dallara IL15-Mazda Indy Lights car.

For a development car, he does think highly of it.

“Yeah it was a bit of a shock to the system initially,” Chilton said. “I’m used to turbos from F1 last year, but it initially was like going back to F3. Still when you know you have it dialed in, you know it’s a good car. I’m looking forward to more races.”

Chilton also spoke highly of racing in America for further opportunities this year. At the moment, he’s bouncing between the U.S. and the U.K. as his Nissan LMP1 commitments have now featured increased testing here in the U.S., at Bowling Green.

“Racing in the States is definitely different from the rest of the world,” Chilton said. “You’re slightly more relaxed. It’s good, fun racing. Everyone’s here because they love it.

“It’s a nice change coming out to race here.”

For now, Chilton is dovetailing the Indy Lights and Nissan roles, although he’s optimistic Carlin’s future IndyCar ambitions will play dividends for him racing in the series in 2016.

“This is another good focus because Trevor wants to get into IndyCar next year,” Chilton said. “There might be an opportunity there.”

You can watch Chilton and the rest of the Indy Lights field’s race from Long Beach at 3 p.m. ET, Sunday, on NBCSN.

Sergio Perez still has coronavirus; will miss second consecutive F1 race

F1 Sergio Perez out
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SILVERSTONE, England — Sergio Perez will be out for a second F1 race at Silverstone this week after again testing positive for the coronavirus.

The Mexican driver had hoped to return to Formula One after spending seven days in quarantine, but his Racing Point team said this morning he had tested positive.

“He is physically well and recovering,” the team said. “The whole team wishes Sergio and his family well and we look forward to his return.”

That means German veteran Nico Hulkenberg again fills in for Sunday’s 70th Anniversary Grand Prix after having also replaced Sergio Perez when he was out for the F1 British Grand Prix at the same venue last week. Hulkenberg did not start that race because of an engine problem.

There are two consecutive weekends of racing at Silverstone as Formula One tries to pack in races following the pandemic-delayed start to the season.

Perez became the first Formula One driver to test positive for coronavirus, and it had been unclear whether he would be available to drive after the period of quarantine was extended to 10 days.

Racing Point also was in the news Friday after being hit with a 15-point penalty in the Formula One constructors’ championship and fined 400,000 euros ($470,000) Friday for using brake ducts based on those from last year’s Mercedes cars.

The stewards ruled that Mercedes was the “principal designer” of the parts, and that Racing Point made only minor changes to computer design data it received from Mercedes.

Rival team Renault filed protests about the legality of the brake ducts, which were added to the “listed parts” under F1 rules for 2020. That means teams must design their own. Racing Point argued it was merely using information about the Mercedes parts to inform its own design.

Racing Point uses customer engines from Mercedes and has admitted basing its 2020 car design on photographs of last year’s Mercedes car. The similarities led to the Racing Point being nicknamed the “pink Mercedes” when it was first seen in testing ahead of the season.

Racing Point can appeal the ruling. The points deduction drops the team from fifth to sixth in the standings, below Renault. The ruling doesn’t affect the points totals for Racing Point’s drivers.